What about “godly” and “he” when it refers to a deity?
‘Koran’ or ‘Quran’?
The names of religious books brings up another interesting question: Why is “Quran” spelled different ways? Translating Arab words to English is difficult because the languages use different alphabets and there are no set rules to correlate the Arabic letters to the Latin letters we use in English.
When we see Arabic words written in English, they’re actually not a translation, but a transliteration--a representation of how the Arabic words would sound if they were written in the Latin alphabet. So you will see “Quran” spelled a few different ways in English publications including “K-o-r-a-n,” “Q-u-r-a-n,” and “Q-u-r-’-a-n.” There isn’t a right or wrong way; it’s a style choice (8). Check your style guide and see if it has a recommendation, or choose your own preferred spelling and be consistent.
Translating from Hebrew has the same problem, which is why there are many acceptable spellings for “Hanukkah.”
What's the Proper Way to Use ‘Gee Whiz’?
Jimmy asked how to properly use "gee whiz," which turns out to be a question about religious words because according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "gee whiz" probably comes from “geewhillikins,” which is a replacement word for the exclamation “Jerusalem!” or a euphemism for "Jesus!" It has come to mean "exciting" or "surprising" when it's used as an adjective:
Gee whiz, Grammar Girl, who knew there was so much to say about this topic?
The most common spelling today is "gee whiz," but since it is slang, there is some disagreement over the spelling, and some dictionaries also show it as "gee whizz." It arose in America in the late 1800s. Back then it was also spelled "gee wiz" and "geewhitz," which is closer to “geewhillikins.”
It only takes a hyphen when it's used as an adjective:
I brought out the gee-whiz dictionaries for that question.
Words like “gee whiz” aren’t new. “Zounds” is a cleaned up way of saying “God’s wounds” that people started using way back in the 1500s (9), and in the 1600s people started saying “gadzooks” which Merriam-Webster says could be a euphemism for “God’s hooks” referring to the nails on the cross (10).
Mormons Are Now Latter-day Saints
Finally, I was at the American Copy Editors Society meeting a couple of weeks ago where editor Paula Froke revealed the latest updates to the AP Stylebook, and one update was about religion. The church commonly known as the Mormon church, has asked to be referred to as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the AP has updated that entry in the stylebook. The church updated its own style guide in August of 2018 to say “Please avoid using the abbreviation ‘LDS’ or the nickname ‘Mormons.’” The church still has the word “Mormon” in some of its online domain names, but Paula noted that one cue the editors looked at to be sure the change was going to stick is that the church had also changed the name of its famous choir to be simply “The Tabernacle Choir.”
Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and the author of The Grammar Devotional and Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.
- “Arizona Families for Home Education Writer’s Guidelines,” AFHE website. October 2011, https://web.archive.org/web/20111016005410/http://www.afhe.org/resources/forms/writers_guidelines051310.pdf (accessed April 8, 2019)
- Marsh, K.W. “Instructions for Authors from Theology Today,” Theological Horizons website. October, 2017 https://web.archive.org/web/20110903034417/http://www.theologicalhorizons.org/FurtherSubmissionguidelines.htm (accessed April 8, 2019)
- “Barclay Press Style Guide,” Barclay Press website. April 20, 2010. https://web.archive.org/web/20100420044446/http://www.barclaypress.com/infodesk.php/style-guide (accessed April 8, 2019)
- “Religious References,” AP Stylebook, Online Edition. (accessed April 8, 2019)
- “Pronouns Referring to Religious Figures,” The Chicago Manual of Style. 17th Edition, Online. (accessed April 8, 2019)
- Hudson, R. The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style. Zondervan: Grand Rapids. March, 2012. https://web.archive.org/web/20120313111159/http://www.zondervan.com/media/cms/Other/cwstylemanual_cms.pdf (accessed April 8, 2019)
- “Capitalization of Pronouns When Referring to Deity,” Orthodox Presbyterian Church website. http://www.opc.org/qa.html?question_id=78 (accessed April 8, 2019)
- Andy Zieminski “Quran or Koran” American Journalism Review. December 2006/January 2007. http://www.ajr.org/Article.asp?id=4239 (accessed April 8, 2019)
- “Zounds,” Merriam-Webster Online. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/zounds (accessed April 8, 2019)
- “Gadzooks,” Merriam-Webster Online. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gadzooks (accessed April 8, 2019)
Mignon Fogarty is Grammar Girl and the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips. Check out her New York Times best-seller, “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.”